Monday, January 28, 2013

Dueling Cheese Straws

One of my "go to" party snacks are homemade cheese straws, mainly because the wow factor to difficulty ratio is pretty high. That, and because they taste really good. So when I was planning Ashleigh's baby shower, I knew they would be on the menu.

However, as I was browsing for ideas, I came across a completely different twist (no pun intended) on cheese straws, courtesy of Joy the Baker. Mine, in all their flaky, cheesy, buttery glory, are a bit rustic, while hers are twirly, light, and elegant.  I was torn. Which should I make for the shower? Being the indecisive person that I am, I had my cake (or cheese straws?) and ate it too. I made them both, because really, this is a duel where both sides win.
Cheese Straws #1
(Based on a recipe from my friend Agnes)

2 sticks of butter, softened and cut into a few pieces
2 c flour
2 c pepper jack cheese, grated
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
pinch of salt
2 tsp light cream (or water if you don't feel like buying a 
whole container of cream just to use a measly 2 teaspoons)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Dump grated cheese and softened butter into the bowl of a large food processor. Pulse until combined.

Add flour, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, and light cream to the mix, and pulse until the dough begins to clump. 

(You can do the previous two steps by hand if you have a wooden spoon, a bowl, 
and some elbow grease)

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, form it into a disk, and roll it out until it's about 1/4 inch thick. Using a floured knife or pizza cutter, slice into 3 by 1 inch rectangles, and place onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (or use a Silpat mat).

Prick each cracker a couple times with a fork, and bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and let them cool on cooling racks.

Feel free to make these a day or two in advance if needed. They should keep for a few days.

Cheese Straws #2

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp hot sauce (I used regular Tabasco)
a dash of water
1/3 cup asiago cheese, finely grated
1/3 cup pecorino romano cheese, finely grated
1 Tb chives, minced
2 Tb thyme, minced
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375.

Remove the puff pastry sheet from its packaging onto a lightly floured surface, and roll it out a bit in all directions. 

Add the hot sauce and just a dash of water to the beaten egg and brush it over the surface of the pastry. Then sprinkle the pastry with your cheeses, herbs, and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper (I used sea salt and a mix of freshly ground black and white peppercorns)

Using a rolling pin, gently press the cheese and herbs into the dough by rolling over the surface of the pastry a few times.

With a floured knife, cut the pastry sheet into long thin strips, about 1/2 inch wide. 

Begin twisting each strip, starting from the middle and working your way to the top and then to the bottom, such that all of the cheesy herby goodness is wrapped up in the middle. (don't worry, you'll loose a little bit of the stuffing, but you'll still have plenty on the inside where it counts)

Lay each twist on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (or use a Silpat mat), leaving some room between each one. Bake for about 14 minutes, until golden.

For the best results, serve on the same day you make them. 

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